Anger Over Historic Police Brutality Boils Over In Los Angeles In Saturday's George Floyd Protests

Protests intensify as a police car is set on fire in the Fairfax area. May 30, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Los Angeles is into a fourth day of protests over police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man whose arrest in Minneapolis on Monday was captured on a shocking video.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency late Saturday evening upon the request of the city and county of L.A. The declaration states that the governor finds "that local authority is inadequate to address the threat posed by the civil unrest."

Protests during the day were peaceful in many parts of the city and county. But as the afternoon advanced, some areas, including Rodeo Drive, Melrose Ave. and the Grove shopping mall, saw stores set on fire and looting.

Kendra Anderson, 24, who was protesting Saturday afternoon in downtown L.A., blamed police for confrontations with protestors and journalists that happened throughout the day. She understands why some protesters may have taken part in vandalism.

"Some people are past the point where they want to just hold signs and, you know, yell to the police. They want to see some stuff burn. And I feel like they have a right to."

Rabbi Anne Brener told KPCC AirTalk host Larry Mantle that she worried the media's focus on property damage during the protests would take away from the main message of the day.

"It's so easy to only see the looting and not hear the pain of the people who were protesting peacefully."

By 7 p.m. a citywide curfew was in place from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sunday and Los Angeles police had declared an "unlawful assembly" in the Mid-Wilshire area. Meaning:

From Melrose to 6th St and La Cienega to La Brea. Residents should stay inside. Business should close. Those on the street are to leave the area immediately.

Curfews starting at 8 p.m. were also established in Culver City, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Torrance set a curfew starting at midnight Saturday and starting at 8 p.m. on Sunday night.


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PHOTOS: Weekend Protests Start Peacefully; Intensify With Police Presence


L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said 1,000 National Guard troops had been requested to help respond to riots: 500 to help LAPD and 500 for the rest of the county. (Earlier in the day, Mayor Eric Garcetti had said he would not call in the National Guard. "This is not 1992," he said in reference to the riots that year.)

Villanueva told KPCC AirTalk host Larry Mantle that he was "concerned about the direction this is taking."

"We all equally condemn the murder of George Floyd ... but what we're doing right now, trashing our own community, is not going to help matters."

Here's a look at how the day unfolded:

The main protest started at noon in Pan Pacific Park near the Fairfax District. Following a peaceful start, chaos broke out on nearby streets, with Fairfax and 3rd St. as the epicenter. Multiple police cars were set on fire and police officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd.

Protesters faced off against LAPD, who late in the afternoon were joined by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a curfew in the entire city from 8 p.m. tonight to 5:30 a.m. Sunday. It was originally set just for downtown L.A.

"I will always protect Angelenos' right to make their voices heard — and we can lead the movement against racism without fear of violence or vandalism," Mayor Garcetti said in a statement. "The vast majority of people taking to the streets are doing it peacefully, powerfully, and with reverence for the sacred cause they're fighting for. This curfew is in place to protect their safety — and the safety of all who live and work in our city."

On Friday night and early Saturday morning, protests in downtown L.A. had turned violent.

Los Angeles is just one city among many across the nation struggling to stem unrest and anger, following decades of racially motivated police brutality.

Authorities said 533 arrests were made Friday night in downtown. The charges include burglary, looting, probation violation, battery on police officer, attempted murder and failure to disperse. All but 18 of those arrested have been released on their own recognizance.

Six LAPD officers were injured on Friday after the Los Angeles Police Dept. declared an "unlawful assembly" and attempted to shut down much of downtown. The officers sustained non-life-threatening injuries, ranging from lacerations to impact wounds.

LAPD is continuing to assess the full extent of property damage from Friday night, according to officials. Several police vehicles were vandalized, and numerous downtown businesses were damaged and looted. More police cars were vandalized and burned today in the Fairfax District.

On Saturday morning, before the protests began, local law enforcement and city leaders called for calm and braced for more unrest. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said:

"I am asking for all of Los Angeles to come together and find the ability to peacefully express individual and collective grievances while also maintaining the safety of all of Angelenos."

LATEST UPDATES, SATURDAY MAY 30:

11:15 p.m. One group of at least two dozen cars was trapped by police on 8th between Broadway and Spring. Police moved in and started arresting the people in the cars. One man who was pulled out of his car and detained, Damien Atkins, told us he hadn't done anything wrong, he hadn't done any looting, and he was angry.

10:45 p.m. A Foot Locker on Broadway was looted Saturday night. During the looting, two men could be heard threatening to shoot people if they didn't get out of their way as they left the store. As they came out, they were carrying the store's safe.

The sidewalk outside was littered with shoe boxes and people could be seen carrying away Pumas, Adidas, Reeboks and other popular brands. Traffic backed up in all directions around the store. Shortly after 10 p.m. the crowd scattered as people heard the sirens of approaching police cars.

A Foot Locker on Broadway was looted Saturday night. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)

9:45 p.m. Loud explosions could be heard in the southern part of downtown L.A. as roving bands of protestors set off unknown devices.

The sudden bangs startled those nearby and sent them scurrying up a sidewalk or jumping into the street. Meanwhile, sirens echoed among the highrises as caravans of police cars raced from one hot spot to another. Police in vehicles chased young men and women on bicycles but often couldn't catch up.

9:00 p.m. Metro Bus and Rail announced that all service would be suspended until 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

About half a dozen squad cars each from the Gardena and Hawthorne Police Departments were seen driving through downtown L.A., indicating LAPD requested assistance from neighboring cities.

8:45 p.m. A widening group of cities established curfews in line with the city of L.A.'s 8 p.m. curfew. These include Culver City, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

7:00 p.m. LAPD declares an unlawful assembly in the Mid-Wilshire area.

6:30 p.m. Mayor Eric Garcetti extended the 8 p.m. curfew from DTLA to the entire city. CBS Los Angeles broadcast footage of looting inside Nordstrom at the Grove and on Rodeo Drive.

6:00 p.m. Sheriffs vehicles have entered the Fairfax District, near Beverly and Stanley.

LAist photojournalist Chava Sanchez was tear-gassed, along with a sizeable group of protestors.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

You can watch the sheriff's press conference, featuring statements from local religious leaders, below:

5:30 p.m. The city of Beverly Hills has now instituted a curfew, starting at 8 p.m.

5:20 p.m. We've just received reports that sign-carrying protesters chanting "eat the rich" went to Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive around 3 p.m. today. Signs carried by protesters included, "George Floyd did not deserve to be murdered," "Justice for George Floyd" and "Black lives matter."

Shortly before 4 p.m., automated telephone calls were made to Beverly Hills residents saying protesters are entering the city and urging residents to stay to home. Motorists were told to avoid the area.

5:14 p.m. West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath says the city will impose a curfew tonight, starting at 8pm.

5:05 p.m. Protestors surrounded a group of 20-30 police before more police arrived and told everyone to leave. Protestors have been splintered east of fairfax and north of Beverly. Police are holding the intersection.

CBS News is reporting that LAPD is also using tear gas. Multiple protestors are coughing as they exit the area.

More police in SUVs have entered the vicinity.

4:50 p.m. Police are shooting rubber bullets into the crowd. Lines of LAPD in riot gear are moving in on protestors. LAist photojournalist, Chava Sanchez, described their actions as "aggressive."

LAist reporter Josie Huang recorded the police shooting at the crowd, as protestors yelled "stop" repeatedly. People were fleeing the scene.

4:45 p.m. Another police car set on fire on Beverly and Fairfax. LAFD trucks have arrived on the scene.

An LAPD patrol car burns near the corner of Beverly and Fairfax. (Chava Sanchez / LAist)

4:40 p.m. LAPD is shooting what appears to be either blanks or rubber bullets into the crowd, reports LAist's Josie Huang.

Some witnesses are reporting that protestors throwing are also throwing things at police, but that is not yet verified.

4:31 p.m. All testing centers are now closed in Los Angeles, citywide (as of 3 p.m.).

The mayor comments in his press briefing about officers using rubber bullets: "policing is difficult to do and using non-lethal force is an option." He calls police officers "peace officers." And that they are doing their duty to protect human lives.

3:47 p.m. Mayor Eric Garcetti is asking spectators to go home and protest peacefully until the violence subsides. He is instituting a curfew downtown from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. so the city can clean up the damage from last night.

Councilman Curren Price said he is proud that South L.A., which he represents, has not seen any violence.

"If we have buildings burning and shops being looted, we've seen those shadows in the past. Don't bring them back," Garcetti said.

Garcetti said the majority of protesters are people who live here, but there are some folks who come from outside who might be lighting fires and looting stores. "Don't let them win," he said, adding that he does not have exact data on this yet.

The mayor also said he has no plans to call in the National Guard. "This is not 1992."

He added, "This was supposed to be an opening weekend, but instead we've seen the closing of a life."

Watch the live feed here.

3:25 p.m. Several police cars have been damaged or burned on 3rd St. between Fairfax and Crescent Heights. Another squad car is on fire on the 8000 block of Beverly Blvd.

Smoke is filling the area. Police are wearing protective helments and holding batons, while forming barriers to stop protestors.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
Smoke near 3rd and Fairfax. (Catilin Hernandez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

3:15 p.m. Mayor Eric Garcetti will speak at 3:30 p.m. According to the press release, he will be joined by Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmember Curren Price, LAPD Chief Michel Moore, Reverend Dr. Najuma Smith Pollard and other leaders "at a remote press briefing to provide an update on Los Angeles' efforts to keep the public safe."

We will be airing the speech live here.

Meanwhile police and protestors are starting to have physical altercations.

3:00 p.m. Minnesota Public Radio just published an analysis of jail records, 86 percent of people booked into the Hennepin County Jail in the last 24 hours are from Minnesota and 43 percent are from Minneapolis. Here's an excerpt:

Alexander Reid Ross, doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, said he thinks far-right extremist groups like Three Percenters and Boogaloo Bois are causing violence in the Twin Cities, as are some protesters angry about generations of institutional racism.

"It's a complex ecosystem of a movement and you are seeing different groups contending to shift the balance in different directions," Ross said. "There is an element of provocation emerging. And I think that probably comes from within as well as from without."

2:56 p.m. Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a statement on this week's demonstrations. He says he is "closely monitoring organizing by violent extremist organizations" to possibly escalate George Floyd protests, adding: "In CA and across the country, there are indications that violent actors may be attempting to use these protests for their own agendas."

2:50 p.m. CNN is reporting that LAPD officers fired rubber bullets at 3rd & Edinburgh. Police vehicles were vandalized — with windows being kicked in and cars being sprayed with graffiti, according to CNN's Paul Vercammen:

Protesters said the demonstrations began peacefully with a march, but then they said police tried to hold them off from moving forward and that's when the confrontation started.

No arrests have been made at this point, Vercammen reported.

2:30 p.m. More photos from the scene in Pan Pacific Park:

Protestors march near Pan Pacific Park today in Los Angeles. May 30, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Josie Huang/LAist)
(Josie Huang/LAist)
(Josie Huang/LAist)
(Josie Huang/LAist)
(Josie Huang/LAist)
Two women join today's Black Lives Matter Protest from inside their car. Pan Pacific Park, Los Angeles. May 30 2002. (Josie Huang/LAist)

1:15 p.m. LAist's Josie Huang reports the police presence at Pan Pacific Park s not as heavy as in downtown last night, but there is at least one helicopter circling.

Protestors are criticizing the police, President Trump and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who they say has been sheltering LAPD officers from prosecution. The protestors are also speaking out against officials who have been critical of protestors.

"They're saying protestors should be allowed not just to grieve, but to rage," Huang says. Protestors are invoking the names of black Americans — from George Floyd to Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland — who have died at the hands of police.

12:50 p.m. Black Lives Matter L.A. posts a live video on Instagram.

The mother of Kenneth Ross Jr., a 25-year-old man who was fatally shot by police in Gardena in April 2018, takes the stage. She says her son was murdered:

"Police swarmed him, he got scared, he ran, as everybody would. If you're scared, you're gonna run. But it ain't against the law to run. As he ran, a white racist cop comes out of nowhere and shoots my son with an AR-15 military assault weapon in his back ... and you know what Jackie Lacey did? The D.A.? She didn't even prosecute the cop. The cop is still out on the streets."

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles (@blmlosangeles) on

12:04 p.m. LAist's Josie Huang reports from Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax district of L.A., where there are actually two protests taking place. Estimates say about 500 people are in attendance. People are wearing masks, but Huang says, "social distancing has definitely gone out the door."

Black Lives Matter is having a rally, as is a group of high school students from around Los Angeles. "Many of the folks I'm seeing are young, they're in high school," Huang said. "I even see really young kids on scooters." Huang spoke to a group of students from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, who brought gatorade and water for the protestors. They also brought bottles of baking soda mixed with water, in case police use tear gas.

There are a few uniformed police officers on site, but not the kind of heavy presence we saw downtown last night.

12:00 p.m. L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez released this statement about the protests:

As a Latina, I have experienced racism many times throughout my life and it is one of the most horrific human experiences imaginable. But for Black America, since the days of slavery and continuing today, racism has been an exceptionally cruel, senseless and deadly foe. It has made driving while black, walking while black, eating while black, jogging while black and living while black a burden Black America never asked for nor deserved.

How many more George Floyds will we mourn? Racism is America's greatest enemy. We cannot excuse it away, we cannot, 'yeah but' it away, we must collectively stop it in its tracks. In public and political debate, and in our private lives, we must intellectually and spiritually kill it before it literally kills another American.

So please protest, please march, please speak out, please cry out to racism's injustice, including in our police departments, and please do so loudly, but please do so peacefully."

11:41 a.m. LAPD Chief Michel Moore tweets about last night, thanking those who protested peacefully.

11 a.m. LAist photographer Chava Sanchez captured some images of downtown in the wake of Friday's protests.

The shopping center at Figureroa and 7th street was closed, while workers did repairs. "Target was boarded up and Zara was completely trashed," he said. The Starbucks on 6th and Spring Streets was also boarded up, after windows were broken last night.

Graffitti was everywhere in Pershing Square.

Zara windows were still smashed at the Fig@&7th shopping center downtown on Saturday morning, May 30. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
Damage at the Starbucks on 6th and Spring the morning after Friday's protests. May 30, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

THE BACKGROUND

On Monday, Minneapolis police responding to a report that someone had tried to make a purchase using a phony $20 bill arrested George Floyd.

Floyd died after he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on the 46-year-old man's neck for nearly 9 minutes. There were three other officers at the scene, two of whom assisted in restraining Floyd.

Video footage of the arrest, in which Floyd is heard saying "I can't breathe," spread widely and all four officers were fired earlier this week. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.

By then, the city and surrounding areas had already experienced several nights of dramatic looting and violence. This morning, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he is fully mobilizing the National Guard in Minneapolis for the first time in the state's history. Walz said:

"Let's be very clear: The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd. It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities."

Minnesota authorities also said they believed the unrest was being driven by outside groups.

In addition to Minneapolis and Los Angeles, among major cities reporting significant incidents of protests turning violent:

  • New York
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Louisville
  • Oakland
  • Portland
  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Detroit
  • Houston

Two people have been reported killed in the protests; a federal security guard in Oakland and 21-year-old man in Detroit.

SCENES ON THE GROUND: FRIDAY

In downtown L.A. overnight Friday, people on the street clashed with police, broke windows, looted and set fires. the sounds of sirens, shouting and rubber bullets being fired continued until nearly dawn, according to area residents.

Earlier in the evening, protesters blocked the 110 and 101 freeways. The LAPD declared an "unlawful assembly" shortly before 9:30 p.m. but then struggled to disperse the crowds.

Protesters filled the streets Friday night in downtown Los Angelees. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

Our colleague Andy Cheatwood watched from his apartment window in downtown's Historic Core. He says the violence escalated below him after the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly

"It seemed to come in waves as the mob and the cops went back and forth. It really kind of started when the LAPD started pushing people South away from the City Hall on Spring. And as they were doing that, it led to a lot of smashing and looting of some of the stores. At one point there was a dumpster that was set on fire."

Cheatwood said he witnessed arrests of protesters earlier in the evening, but by the time the looting began, it appeared to him that the people still on the street were unconnected to the earlier protests.

"The protesters were generally not trying to provoke police, had signs, were chanting, etc. Whereas the folks that were smashing things looked like they were partying."

Witnesses made similar observations in Oakland and other protest locations:

This morning, Cheatwood says much of the street is covered in graffiti and store windows are boarded up. Cheatwood says he and his neighbors are hunkering down in preparation for more protests planned for today.

A boy holds a sign during a protest in downtown Los Angeles on Friday. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)
People vandalize a Starbucks as protesters clash with police officers. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)
Protesters loot and vandalize a Starbucks. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)
Protesters light a fire in the middle of the street during a protest. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)
Protesters confront police officers during a protest over the death of George Floyd. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
LAPD police officers fire rubber bullets. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
(Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
A man throws a hand truck into the window of vandalized CVS store. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
(Christian Monterrosa/AP)
(Christian Monterrosa/AP)
A man records a burning police vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd early Saturday. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS

Reporter Josie Huang and photojournalist Chava Sanchez are reporting on protests today. Reporter Frank Stoltze will be reporting tonight. Producer Julia Paskin is making calls. This story is anchored by Gina Pollack and edited by Oscar Garza and Megan Garvey.

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials and some of the major groups organizing the protests, check the following websites and social media accounts:

MORE ON LA PROTESTS

WE ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

This story originally published at 10:10 a.m.